Top 5 Tips for Eating Vegan On the Road

Today’s guest post is by Nancy Harder of Nancy the Gnomette. Like me, Nancy is a twenty-something traveler and writer. Unlike me, Nancy and her family lead a vegan lifestyle. As a dedicated carnivore, I was curious about how veganism/vegetarianism mixes with the traveling lifestyle. I asked Nancy to provide some pointers for staying true to your beliefs when far from home and how to eat vegan on the road.

India - Haridwar - 010 - vegetables for sale in Bara Bazaar - Eating Vegan on the Road
Creative Commons License photo credit: mckaysavage
I’ve been vegan now for 6 months. Despite periodic cravings for cheese, I’ve really enjoyed this life choice. I’ve never felt healthier and I feel empowered lessening my ecological impact (among other reasons).
Veganism isn’t for everyone. What you eat is as personal a decision as who you marry and what you believe. But if you feel like experimenting with veganism or are already on the vegetarian/vegan journey, here are my top 5 tips for eating vegan on the road:

#1: HappyCow.net
HappyCow.net is a worldwide vegetarian restaurant guide. While not comprehensive, the site is bound to have a couple of suggestions for most places. My home state, North Carolina (aka BBQ capital of the world) even has 118 veg-friendly restaurant suggestions. The site also allows you to specify only 100% veg restaurants. I’m stoked that the vegan foodie scene is gaining momentum too. You might be surprised at the vegan culinary creations going on nowadays. It’s not just tofu, granola, and Birkenstocks anymore. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)  And this gives you great ideas on where to eat vegan on the road.

#2: Pack Vegan Nutrition/Energy Bars
Although there are many brands, LÄRA bars continue to be my favorite. The banana nut bread bar is pretty darn tasty. Like many of their bars, it’s also raw, for the raw vegans out there.

#3: Prepare snacks
Eating vegan on the road will often require a little more preparation. Mickey Ds, for example, isn’t quite vegan-friendly. However, if you throw some peanut butter, hummus, veggies, apples, and crackers in your bag, you’re set to go. If you can heat things, there are many vegan, even organic, soups out there. Some of my favorites are Muir Glen and Amy’s.

#4: Go for dark greens and legumes.
Did you know that a bowl of dark greens (e.g. kale, spinach, collards) has more calcium than a glass of milk? True stuff. And legumes are a great source of protein.

#5: Walk on the wild side – eat ethnic!
Ethnic food, especially Asian and African cuisine, have plentiful vegan fare. Some of my all-time favorite dishes have always been vegan in Moroccan, Ethiopian, Indian, and Thai cuisines. Just make sure to ask about fish sauce in Asian dishes, including curry dishes.

Experiment and try veganism out for a meal. You might surprise yourself with how much you already eat that’s vegan and the variety of vegan food out there.  It may be easier to eat vegan on the road than you think!

 

Vegan California Roll in Rice Paper - Eating Vegan on the Road
Creative Commons License photo credit: norwichnuts

Do you have dietary restrictions but still want to travel? Check out our Culinary Travel section for more information!

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5 Tips for Eating Vegan on the Road

Steph

Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! She is the co-founder and editor of Why Wait To See the World. Learn more about her here.

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20 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips for Eating Vegan On the Road”

  1. Since you’ve mentioned India, thought I’ll mention this – there’s a lot of great vegetarian food in India, but just make sure that they are not milk based. Quiet a few Indian veg dishes have milk/cottage cheese in them.
    .-= Abhi´s last blog ..Sunday Postcard: Maheshwar, India =-.

  2. Oooh, ooh, I was preparing an article on this exact topic! Great advice, Nancy!

    I went vegetarian in Malaysia, vegan in Japan and have been a travelling plant-eater for 3 years now.

    The best advice I can think of is to befriend the local veg*ns – through internet boards, local activism groups or meetups… They know the best addresses and products and can negociate with subborn waitresses for you if you lack the language skills. And this can be the starting point of amazing transnational friendships. I still send and receive care packages from vegans around the world on a regular basis…

    Speaking of language skills, getting a vegan passport will halve your troubles. It provides a description of veganism and dishes suggestions in a variety of languages, so you can just show it to restaurant staff or hosts.

    And my last thought, although definitely not unanimously shared in the community, is to accept that for every new destination there is a learning curve, and not beat yourself up too hard for your mistakes. To me, veganism is not about maintaining standards of purity. It’s about making the most ethical decision possible with each food choice – and sometimes, unfortunately, the choices are limited – by our environment, by our knowledge, by our ability to communicate. I just spent a couple of weeks in Korea during which I had to pick animal parts out of my food on a few occasions, because apparently there “small chunks of meat” counts as “no meat”. I don’t like it, but live and learn. I’ll know to make myself understood better next time.

    And now I have a bunch of excellent vegan addresses in Seoul.
    .-= aelle´s last blog ..Seoul under my hand – Tea and pastries =-.

  3. And good call on the ethnic food. My company had to entertain vegan clients the other day (we work with Asia, so we do business with Jains on a regular basis) and I pretty much saved the day by finding a classy lebanese restaurant. The guys were soooo happy to have something else than lettuce to eat!
    .-= aelle´s last blog ..Seoul under my hand – Tea and pastries =-.

  4. The protein bars pretty much saved my life on the road as a vegetarian. You really do just HAVE to bring your own snacks so that you don’t get caught in a bad situation where there is no healthy food readily available that you’re sure you can eat 🙂
    .-= Shannon OD´s last blog ..A Little Route…My RTW Travel Route 2008-2009 (Part 2) =-.

  5. Thanks for the tips, Nancy 🙂 As a vegetarian, I felt right at home in SE Asia since there were so many tasty options! I’ve found Indian food has some good vegetarian choices as well.

  6. Thanks to everyone so far for their suggestions! Vegetarianism and traveling seem to go hand in hand for a lot of people. Even though that’s not my lifestyle choice I’m always impressed by how people manage to make it work even in less than favorable conditions.

    Please keep it up with the advice!

  7. If you have access to a kitchen and a supermarket, grains like barley, millet, bulgar wheat, and quinoa make for a great meal. All you need is some boiling water. You can eat them plain, use them in salads, or as a more nutritious alternative to rice. I have found these dried grains all over the world. They are cheap, healthy, and extremely versatile…not mention delicious. 🙂
    .-= Cari´s last blog ..My Lady Syria =-.

  8. Thanks for all the feedback and tips everyone! It´s so great to connect with other vegetarians/vegans. (We are few and far between down here in Argentina!) Aelle-I´m going to have to check out that vegan passport. That sounds fantastic.
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..My First Bike and Wine Tour in Mendoza, Argentina =-.

  9. Thank you for this post!
    I was a vegan for some years, though now I’m vegetarian. Travelling as a vegan was challenging and the level of difficulty varies by location. In Budapest, in 2005, I had to go through a lot of explaining in restaurants for anyone to get what being a vegan meant (and I don’t think it was just the language barrier), but I’m guessing nowadays it’s easier everywhere. At least most trendy European cities have organic and vegetarian bistros and delis budding everywhere!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..The Ghost of Christmas Past =-.

    1. I do think it’s becoming easier but definitely can still be a challenge. When I was in the Balkans I could tell that it would be rather difficult for vegetarians there (unless they REALLY love onions).

  10. I’ve been a strict vegetarian longer than I can remember – maybe 20 or so years now – and I’ve been traveling all my life. So far I’ve never had any problems with starving to death.

    When traveling with other folks don’t become the one pain in the ass person just because you’re a picky eater. You need to be willing to have pie for dinner (oh no!) or assemble a meal from side dishes. Just don’t make some big hassle in a restaurant trying to get them to bend to your needs. No one wants to dine out with that guy.

    Most places have a national or specialty dish. Take 15 seconds on google and learn what’s in it. Better yet take a couple minutes and learn the names of common dishes you can eat in the local language. Staring at a menu in a foreign language with no prior research is not a good time.

    On a long haul bus ride and the only snacks being sold are pig testicles? Typical. Well, suck it up and go without. Believe it or not people often go without eating for a few hours at a time. It helps to at least have some water with you.

    Definitely if you’re fragile – I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner – but if you have blood sugar issues, get light headed, etc then carry some snack bars with you. Or if you find a portable veg snack somewhere go ahead and grab a second one for later.

    It definitely isn’t hard to travel veg. Especially the more you get used to it. Just relax, pay attention and think ahead a little bit.
    .-= Shawn´s last blog ..This Week on the Webnets: Dec 19 =-.

    1. Thanks for the insight Shawn! I’m surprised by how many vegetarian travelers there are- although I guess I shouldn’t be.

  11. I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life (since childhood) and a vegan for around 5 years. The first week after I started backpacking was pretty challenging since I had a language barrier, no experience with this new life of travelling and had to quickly learn food words and phrases, but after that it has been (mostly) smooth sailing.

    The key for me was to use the hostel kitchen to cook my own meals (there’s always quick meals you can make out of local foods if you’re creative / not too picky) and always carry snacks (protein bars, peanut butter, dried fruit and an apple or 2) in my bag. I even found powdered soy milk that will pack well for ’emergencies’.

    Happy Cow, Yelp, online recipe sites and communities for other veg*ns have been a huge help. Writing out phrases in the local language to carry and show helps with the initial language barrier in many situations as well.
    .-= Catia´s last blog ..Hostelito Inn, Possibly the Friendliest Hostel in Guadalajara =-.

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